Airlines Face Disruption With Dubai Runway Closure

 - May 27, 2013, 10:35 AM
Dubai Airports is planning carefully to minimize disruption to airlines during next year’s extensive runway refurbishment at Dubai International Airport. (Photo: Dubai Airports)

Dubai International Airport (DXB) is to close both runways over a period of almost three months next year in a major refurbishment program that will lead to the diversion of scheduled passenger flights, as well as all Emirates SkyCargo aircraft, to the new Dubai World Central Airport (DWC). The work at one of the world’s busiest intercontinental hubs is due to take 80 days and will start on May 1 next year.

“To safeguard service levels while the work is taking place, scheduled passenger flights at its hub airport will be reduced and all freighter, charter and general aviation flights will be diverted to DWC,” said Dubai Airports in a May 9 statement. “The southern runway will be closed from May 1 to May 31, 2014, while the northern runway will be out of operation May 31 to July 20, 2014, as the upgrades are implemented.”

The last time major runway rehabilitation work for the south runway was carried out was in 2007. This is the first rehabilitation for the north runway after more than 14 years of operations. “The runway work is related solely to a clear heavy maintenance requirement,” said Helen Woodrow, Dubai Airports’ vice president for forecasting and research. “We are also taking advantage of the closure to construct taxiways to boost capacity in line with our Strategic Plan 2020 program. Discussions on the longer-term strategy for Dubai’s airport expansion are ongoing.”

Virtually every airline that flies into DXB will be affected by this project. “Dubai Airports is working with airlines and an independent scheduling organization to minimize disruption to passengers and flight schedules to the extent that is possible,” said Woodrow. DXB can accommodate 75 million passengers; DWC has a capacity of 5 million expandable to 7 million.

Rehabilitation at DXB will also involve the lengthening of both existing runways. “At this stage feasibility options are being explored to identify where possible additional distances can be provided, either during the rehabilitation or safeguarded for at some time in the future. Currently, takeoff length will increase for three of the four runway directions,” she explained.

Dubai’s desert climate poses special problems for runway maintenance. Large variations in daily temperature cause major expansion and contraction in rigid and flexible pavements. Higher temperatures also mean it takes longer for any new asphalt laid on the runway to become usable. Significant repairs or overlays need a longer runway closure to allow for curing.

“Additionally, with an average of 900-plus movements per day, most of which are widebody aircraft with heavy loads, a heavy build-up of rubber on runways can accumulate quite quickly,” Woodrow said. “Dubai Airports closes each runway for five hours per week as part of its ongoing maintenance program to remove rubber, conduct friction tests, re-paint lines and maintain lighting.”